Book  Review: The Sugar Planter’s Daughter by Sharon Maas

the_sugar_planters_daughter

It is 1912. In British Guyana,Winnie Cox is getting married to the love of her life, George Quint. What should have been the happiest day of her life is marred by the drift between her and her sister Joanna. The book picks up from where ‘The Secret Life of Winnie Cox left off.

Joanna doesn’t approve of George or of her sister’s decision. Joanna or Yoyo and Winnie are daughters of an affluent sugar planter while George is a poor black postman. Yoyo cannot believe that her sister has decided to take this path.

Growing up in the lap of luxury, the sisters had been shielded from the reality of life outside their circles, however as they grow up, both sisters take completely divergent paths in life. Winnie chooses a life of poverty but full of happiness while Yoyo chooses to run the sugar plantation in her father’s footsteps.

Winnie blossoms with the happiness in her life, despite living in poverty in the slums of Guyana. She makes do with what she has, and even makes the most of what ever little they have. From a pampered white girl, she turns into an entrepreneurial young woman. Winnie and George have a content life. Yoyo on the other hand, has all the luxuries in the world but no real happiness. Her marriage is a sham, her sister continues to be her mother’s favourite, and to make things worse, her marriage of convenience is a joke. Her husband seems to impregnate every woman in the land, has not been able to give her an heir for the plantation. Torn by her angst, she turns bitter and extremely unhappy. Her focus turns to stealing her sister’s happiness. She goes on a rampage that is guaranteed to break hearts, destroy families and change things forever between the sisters.

The heart-wrenching story of the two sisters, the story of love, loss and betrayal. The book evokes strong imagery of British Guyana. I love the way the author weaves the tale, she gets us entwined in the tale with her words. My heart bled for Winnie, hoped that realisation dawns on Yoyo, hoped that she aborts her mission to destruction.. Characters that you get drawn to, characters that you feel for, real characters. A book I would recommend without a doubt. A wonderful read. I can’t wait to read the next installment in Winnie’s story. I have to admit, I would be more than happy if the author could find a way of getting rid of Yoyo.

A 5/5 read.

Thank you Netgalley and Bookouture for the review copy of this book.

About the Author
Sharon Maas was born in Georgetown, Guyana in 1951, and spent many childhood hours either curled up behind a novel or writing her own adventure stories. Sometimes she had adventures of her own, and found fifteen minutes of Guyanese fame for salvaging an old horse-drawn coach from a funeral parlor, fixing it up, painting it bright blue, and tearing around Georgetown with all her teenage friends. The coach ended up in a ditch, but thankfully neither teens nor horse were injured. Boarding school in England tamed her somewhat; but after a few years as a reporter with the Guyana Graphic in Georgetown she plunged off to discover South America by the seat of her pants.

Advertisements

What the Body Remembers by Shauna Singh Baldwin

Roop, one of Bachan Singh’s two daughters, grows up without her mother. Her father, a respected however not-too-well-off a person in the village, does his best in bringing up his daughters and son.

Roop grows up believing that she is destined to a better life. When Bachan Singh gets a proposal from one of the wealthiest men in the village for his daughter, he is delighted, only to be disappointed when he realizes that it is not for one of the wealthy man’s sons. but for an already married relative of his. However, already in debt after his elder daughter’s wedding, Bachan Singh does not have much of an option but to agree. Bachan Singh might have been heavy hearted but Roop was delighted. She was convinced that she has a wonderful fate in store for her. Even becoming a second wife does not faze her. She believes that she will be a little sister to her older co-wife.

Satya, Sardarji’s wife is sophisticated, the perfect mate to the Oxford educated Sardarji. Perfect, but for the fact that she is barren. She tries hard to fight her fate, hoping that Sardarji will refuse to take a second wife, only to realize that despite his educational credentials, Sardarji is still bound by his roots. Having an heir, a son, is very important to him.

She is hit hard by the fact that the new bride has got handed all her jewellery. Everything that was hers is now Roop’s. Satya tries everything she can to ensure that Sardarji’s second marriage is ruined.

It is a touching story woven through the landscape of political landscape of unrest and eventually India’s Partition into India and Pakistan.

Roop’s initial innocence, trying hard to please everybody, believing that she and Satya would be like sisters, her compliance and her slow metamorphosis into her own person, somebody who understood that she had to fight for her rights in every way she could. She learns the ways of the world to survive, to hold on to her position, as the mother of Sardarji’s children.

Sardarji, again a complex character, educated in England, a civil engineer, outwardly a modern person, but when it came to his inner self, someone who held on to the views of his society. He tries to saddle both his worlds, wining and dining with his English colleagues, while looking down on them(just as they did him), and his life in Indian society.

Satya’s bitterness, her inability to accept her fate, trying everything she could to ensure that Roop is just a baby maker, and not Sardarji’s wife. Satya comes across as a strong person, someone who knows her rights, and tries to fight society in the way she could. A woman who argues with her husband, who refuses to be ‘sweet-sweet’ in front of her husband, a woman who believes that she is her husband’s equal.

The book is also sprinkled with instances of how underprivileged women(and girls) were in those days. At her father’s place, Roop had never tasted meat or fish – that was reserved for her brother, because the whole family’s fortune rested on him. The girls would just be married off. Roop’s unmarried aunt, who keeps planning to leave, but everybody is aware, that she will never leave.  After all, as an unmarried woman, she does not have a house of her own, to go to.

The book also deals with the way political unrest changed life as they knew it. Once Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs lived together in harmony, but with the partition looming closer, things changed, loyalties changed…Life as they knew it changed. It also reflects how Sikhs viewed the partition. While carving out countries keeping in mind the two main communities, Sikhs were the ones who were uprooted from their land and made to migrate into a new, foreign land. One stroke of the pen that made them foreigners in their own land.. A partition when one minority was almost entirely ignored…

A beautifully written story, leaves you moved, saddened, and a lot wiser. A wonderful read.